Spiritual Gifts & Speaking in Tongues

Though Christ ascended from the earth, he sent to his disciples for all time the Holy Spirit to equip them in continuing His work. He baptizes us and dwells within us, guiding us in our life on Earth. Through the Holy Spirit, the church has been prepared and provided for so that it may function as Christ’s body. One fascinating and powerful aspect of our provision is that of our spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts are given to all believers as the means to carry out their “calling,” especially relating to Christian service and the development of the church. Every Christian is given at least one (1 Peter 4:10, 1 Corinthians 12:11). They are like skills or tools; they equip members of the church’s body to perform their functions. Paul wrote that we have differing gifts “according to the grace given to us.” (Romans 12:6) which is referred to again in Ephesians 4:7.

While everyone in the body of Christ has been given a gift, gifts are not the proof or measure of a Christian’s maturity. Sometimes spiritual gifts are confused with fruit of the spirit. Fruit of the Spirit is outlined in Galatians 5:22-23. It is the result of a Christian lifestyle, and should be present in every Christian’s life as a testament to their faith. It shows one’s spiritual maturity and character. On the other hand, not every spiritual gift is given to every believer.

The Bible lists speaking in tongues among spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and as a sign of faith and spiritual baptism in Mark 16:17. In 1 Corinthians 14:27 Paul wrote that in a particular gathering no more than three people should speak in tongues, and that there should be an interpreter. The disciples spoke in “other tongues” in Acts 2:4, which were languages of other people present at the meeting. Acts 19:6 tells that Paul laid hands on some disciples who said had not heard of the Holy Spirit, and they began speaking in tongues. Biblically, tongues were used to preach to those of a foreign language, and as a sign of the Holy Spirit upon an individual. Beyond that, there is no other biblical description of its use.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit refers to the moment of a believer entering the body of Christ. Paul wrote that we are all baptized into one body in one spirit (1 Cor 12:13). Water baptism symbolizes one’s immersion in the Holy Spirit as they join the spiritual network of Christians. John the Baptist spoke of water baptism as a symbolic, precursory alternative to the spiritual baptism that Jesus Christ would bring (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16). When John later baptized Jesus with water, the spirit of God descended upon Jesus like a dove, commending and resting upon him (Matthew 3:13-17). In Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3: 17 John describes the baptism as an extreme, inwardly purifying process. Though it does not get rid of the flesh, or sinful nature, it does signify repentance and should thus be followed by a change in lifestyle and motivation.

Some say that baptism in the Holy Spirit must necessarily be followed by the gift of speaking in tongues. However, that is clearly not the case, as Paul stated plainly that not everyone has the same gifts (1 Cor 12:8-10, 29-30). The gift of tongues may follow baptism, and serve as a sign or affirmation of baptism’s occurrence. However, it is not a requirement for affirming baptism.

1 Corinthians 13:8 says that “as for tongues, they will cease” upon the arrival of “the perfect.” Some believe that the perfect has yet to come, and others that it already has. The interpretation of that verse is obviously crucial in determining whether or not the gift of tongues has a place in present day Christianity. If “perfect” is to be understood as the completed canon of scripture, as some believe, the revelatory gifts would have ceased. However, as God himself is the only perfect being, the correct interpretation seems to be that the coming of the perfect refers to the second coming of Christ. However, one must be aware of Paul’s limit of three people in one meeting that are speaking in tongues, and the requirement of an interpreter to validate the speech (1 Cor 14:27).

The blessing of the Holy Spirit, His baptism, and the spiritual gifts are phenomenal and of enormous potential. The spirit of Jesus Christ is among us, empowering us so He can live through us. Let us continually cherish and develop our gifts, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Hereby may Christians truly be of one spirit as the living body of Christ around the globe.